Soldiers who serve in checkpoints have very clear orders about when to shoot at a suspect’s upper body. As a platoon commander, I used to give my soldiers classes about how to handle a terrorist who runs in their direction carrying a knife or a bomb.
First the soldier must order him to stop. Then, if he fails to stop—the soldier needs to shoot at his lower body. Only if the soldier is in a concrete life-threatening situation, he can shoot at the assailant's upper body.
Since Friday, I’ve been trying to understand how it is possible that an Israeli citizen was shot to death without warning. There were no warning shots or shots at the legs—but a direct shot to his upper body.
It’s important to stress that I’m not familiar with all of the facts of the case, and I only know what I’ve learned from the media. I want to believe that this tragic incident will be investigated thoroughly, following which we will be able to unequivocally tell whether the police officer who shot and killed Yehuda Biadga had to do so because his life was in danger.
I love my country and I’m proud of being Israeli. My family fought for decades to make it to Israel, and we fight every day to feel secure and like we belong here. But I don’t feel secure—and it's not because of the security situation. And there is an entire group of people like me who feel the same.
I have the privilege of lecturing in universities around the US every year. I meet thousands of students, and I tell them my life story and the story of my family’s journey to the Land of Israel, and they always ask: how do the white people treat black people in Israel? That’s exactly how they put it.
At first, this question sounded strange to me. But later I realized that this question is being asked because in the US, police officers shoot black citizens without thinking twice. I always answer that in my country, this isn’t the case. We don't get shot in the streets because we're black, and we don’t get sent to prison because we’re black. But in recent years, it has become hard to say it and mean it.
When I heard about Yehuda's death, I burst into tears. It were tears of pain and frustration. After all, his mother and other relatives called the police and explained about his mental state. The police officers got a call about a mentally ill guy running around with a knife. Scary? Absolutely! But you’ve been trained as police officers. You have the tools to prevent violence of any kind, and the first move is to neutralize—not to kill.
Yehuda needed mental help. Not a tragic ending to his already painful, short life.
Remember the Ethiopian protests, the one we all should have participated in, but instead it remained "the blacks’ fight"? It broke out three years ago over similar incidents. In recent years it seemed like the police are trying hard to do better, and yet these cases of arbitrary violence come back to haunt us. Why?
We’re second and third generation Israelis. We grew up here, with Israeli mentality. We’re not our grandparents, who made the journey from Ethiopia and arrived here shell-shocked. They didn’t learn the language, didn’t integrate. With quiet and paralyzing deference the hid and stayed low for fear of the white man.
We are Israelis for all intents and purposes: we’re law-abiding citizens, students, soldiers, doctors, creators, lawyers, teachers—and also police officers. We want to live a safe life here, we don’t want to have to fear the police officers who are supposed to protect us.
We don’t want to die because people are afraid of our color.
Titi Aynaw is a former beauty queen, a model and a lecturer.